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Travel Australia with Kids

Thursday 14th April 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Saturday, April 16, 2011

The detour to Sydney had also led to our decision to change the direction for the rest of our travels.  Neither one of us could face driving all the way back to pick up where we started from near the WA border, so we decided that we would spend a couple of weeks visiting inland NSW and then head to the NSW coast and move up to Queensland and continue around in an anti-clockwise direction.  This would keep the seasonal timings pretty much as we had planned.

So after we picked up the 5th wheeler near Newcastle, we stopped off at Maitland for lunch, supplies and to re-organise a few things after a week without the caravan.  It wasn't until we had left the suburbs of Maitland and the country-side opened up and the population density decreased that both Mike and I breathed a sigh of relief!  We like it quiet!  Drove through Singleton and the magnificent upper Hunter Valley - with its rolling hills of wineries and the backdrop of the Great Dividing Range. We then followed the Golden Highway through lots of small towns, Merriwa and stopped for the night at the very small town (population 110) of Cassilis.  The camp area was next to the Bowling Club, which, as in so many little towns, is everything else too!  On this particular Friday night, there was a social do with a darts competition. We joined the town (the majority of whom were in attendance with their children) for dinner and got a little taste of small town life. Friendly people for sure, but I don't think I would be too happy with the lack of choice, including people to associate with!

And to really mark our return to travelling, we heard the telltale "flutter of wings" sound that signalled the presence of mice in the roof space!!  Kiavash was awake at this point and he was all for trying to catch him as before. So we made up the dining area bed and with Michael promising to keep watch, Kia and I fell asleep.  It wasn't the most restful night's sleep, but we didn't find any mouse droppings on or near the bed the next morning.  Michael reckoned that this was because of the poison baits (which were nearly all eaten by morning) and the peanut butter on the mouse traps keeping them well fed enough not to come looking for food.  But apparently it takes a couple of days for the poison to finish them off.

Our first destination was the town of Canowindra (about 60km southwest of Orange) and the 17th National Balloon Championships. We drove through the back roads until we reached the highway at Wellington where we pulled over at the sculptures for lunch.  Quite an impressive use of recycled materials - rafters from the old bridge, broken tiles etc. We reached Canowindra around 3pm and camped at the showgrounds, which had been set up for the expected influx of tourists for the Balloon regatta, launching tonight with a balloon light show and food stalls in the Sports Oval.  It was a great night! Everyone's favourite was the huge kookaburra balloon and the food was fantastic. The stalls ranged from Indian, to wood-fired pizza, gourmet sausage rolls and beef pies - and all plates were $5 (what a great idea!).  And luckily a very clear night, as the next day the rain started!

The drive to Orange was beautiful - high altitude wineries, still great views of the Great Dividing Range and magnificent horse stud properties with their tree-lined driveways.  And the changing colours of autumn just gave the whole thing another world feel!  Halfway between Orange and Bathurst is the gorgeous capming grounds of Macquarie Woods State Forest, which is also a pine plantation area.  It is undoubtedly one of the loveliest areas we've seen yet, with enormous grounds, a dam with carp and yabbies, several toilets, a bin at each camp area and regular provision of free firewood! It was a very rainy day when we arrived, so we decided to allow ourselves a complete bludge day - lots of DVD watching, lego playing and eating whatever we wanted! It was a much needed re-charge and slow down from the past couple of weeks.

Our planned 2 day stopover extended to 5 days as "Ironhide" broke down again - wouldn't start the morning after arrived. Luckily we had updated our NRMA membership for the truck to "Premier" just before we left Sydney so they were called and declared that it was far more serious than a flat battery, so another tow for the truck and a hunt through Orange for a mechanic that had time to have a look at it (apparently since the mines opened up not far from orange, all the mechanics have left town to work for the better pay at the mines and there is a huge shortage of qualified mechanics and a long waiting list at the garages!).  The NRMA also arranged a hire car for us so we could get around.  It turned out to be a faulty fuel filter head allowing the fuel to drain back into the tank - so a replacement was ordered from Melbourne and we had to wait it out.

Aside from the fact that it was VERY cold (2-3 degrees overnight and only 12-16 degrees during the days), if there was a place you'd want to be forced to stay at, it was Macquarie Woods.  Although there was a steady stream of campers coming and going, the grounds are so extensive that you never heard anyone else.  The kids fished in the dam every day and didn't care at all that it was only carp that had to be killed and thrown away.  We had roaring fires going every afternoon and clear night skies full of stars every night (even though we never stayed out past 7pm due to the cold).  We visited Mount Canobolas and Lake Canobolas, and the kids had a great time playing with some kids their ages at the enormous Adventure Playground near the Botanical Gardens.  We also had access to every shop we needed in Orange and Michael actually enjoyed driving around in a zippy little sedan, being able to park in small spaces again!

So 2 weeks in a row now with events forcing us to stay put and slow down.........the universe telling us something perhaps?  We should listen, because the last 2 weeks have also been the most expensive with repairs!!

Kiavash and Tiran - Cassilis, NSW (09Apr11)One of the sculptures of
The artwork within was done by the school and community groups and tells the history of the area.  Tile mosaic flower - Wellington, NSW (09Apr11)Flame jet from balloon parade - Canowindra, NSW (09Apr11)
Kookaburra Balloon - Canowindra, NSW (09Apr11)Balloons light show - Canowindra, NSW (09Apr11)A beautiful spot for a breakdown! - Macquarie Woods, Orange, NSW (11Apr11)Doing their best to miss those puddles - Macquarie Woods, Orange, NSW (11Apr11)
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